A small immunotherapy vaccine—developed by a University of Birmingham PhD student and a group of collaborators—protects mice against oxidative damage caused by aging. This research has been published in Science Advances.
Age is a leading clinical risk factor for age-related macular degeneration (AMD), which results in loss of central light-sensitive photoreceptors and increased central dark matter in the central part of the retina in the upper part of the eye. These photoreceptors are responsible for detecting when objects are strong because optical neurons are not able to perform safely in the close-up. As a result, blind people can visually perceive things that they may not be there to see.
Using electron microscopes, the researchers demonstrate that the vaccine induces photoreceptor activation and cloud-like proteoglycans in the photoreceptors in the eye. These patches of proteoglycans that protect the photoreceptors are different than those found in healthy eyes, indicating that they are presenilin-like proteoglycans. These are a type of protein found in the intestine that neutralizes intestinal bacteria and efficiently clears out unwanted or harmful proteins, thus preventing unwanted and/or harmful proteins from forming molecules inside the eye.
This finding is most likely to contribute to a better understanding of photoreceptor dysfunction and how it can be targeted for development in the future as an alternative approach to treat age-related macular degeneration involving photoreceptors.
Building on their previous work, the groups at the University of Birmingham’s Institute of Microbiology and Infection Medicine (IMM) and the Penn State College of Medicine have developed a new delivery approach combining proteoglycans from the intestinal lining with immunotherapy. These proteins bind to the surface of the cell and alter its synaptic function. They are then delivered to the photoreceptors to activate them and cause the photoreceptors to signal for action to deceive the predators.
Dr Shu-Qiang Dong, iCLD Clinical Scientist from the University of Birmingham’s Institute of Microbiology and Infection Medicine, says: